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How To Clean Black Residue Off Cast Iron Skillet – 4 Easy Methods

It is not unusual for a new cast iron skillet to have a black coating because it is seasoned with oil after production.

This black coating prevents the skillet from rusting so it does not need to be cleaned. However, if the black stuff is a result of overheated oil or burnt food, then it is important to learn how to clean black residue off a cast iron skillet.

So, in this article, we will cover the various methods of cleaning black residue off your skillet. Also, we shall go the extra mile to explain how you can prevent the residue from forming on the skillet.

What Is The Black Coating On Cast Iron Skillet? 

It is important to note that there is a difference between a black coating and a black residue on a skillet.

A cast-iron skillet is usually silver or grey when it’s not treated.

In order to prevent it from rusting, it is seasoned by the manufacturer by applying a thin layer of polymerized oil. This gives it a black coating.

The coating also makes the skillet non-stick so that food doesn’t burn easily while cooking.

The black coating may come off after frequent use but you can always reseason the pan using any type of vegetable oil.

What Causes The Black Residue On Cast Iron Skillet? 

The black residue on the skillet might be caused by either of the following:

1. Burnt Oil When Cooking

Certain oils like olive oil, walnut oil, and flaxseed oil have a low smoke point; hence they should not be overheated.

In case such oils overheat, they tend to form carbon, which results in black residue deposits on the skillet.

2. Food Sticking On The Pan While Cooking

The reason for sticking could be a failure to use oil cooking. Foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins also tend to stick to the pan easily when subjected to high heat.

How to clean black residue off cast iron skillet

Thus, you need to use enough cooking oil or butter when cooking and avoid high heat.

3. Unseasoned Skillet

Food is likely to stick on the pan if it is not seasoned and causes a black residue.

Seasoning as earlier mentioned creates a protective layer on the pan that acts as a buffer thereby prevent food from sticking.

See also: Reasons why cast iron is sticky after seasoning

Is Black Residue On Cast Iron Skillet Harmful? 

No, the black residue is not harmful because it is caused by carbon deposits that are produced due to the overheating of oil or burnt food.

Although it is not harmful, nobody would enjoy eating food that has black specs of carbon deposits.

cast iron sticky after seasoning

That is why it is important to thoroughly clean the skillet to remove the residue.

So let’s see how you should clean the skillet to remove the residue and prevent it from re-occurring.

How To Clean Black Residue Off Cast Iron Skillet?

It doesn’t matter what is the cause of black residue on you cast iron skillet but you need to get rid of it.

Here are some ways you can clean it off and leave the skillet looking as good as new.

Method 1: Use Salt Or Baking Soda And Soap

Salt and baking soda are household items so they are readily available.

You can use either of them to remove the black residue.

  • All you need to do is pour some salt or baking soda into the skillet. Add the dish soap and water and start scrubbing.
  • The dish soap will help to get rid of the oil while the salt or baking soda will help to remove the carbon residue due to their abrasive ability.
  • Once done scrubbing, rinse the pan using warm water. Repeat the process in case you see traces of the black residue.
  • Rinse the skillet thoroughly and dry using a paper towel. Ideally, it is recommended that you heat it in the oven to ensure it dries completely.

Method 2: Use A Self-Cleaning Oven

There is no doubt that using a self-cleaning oven to clean the skillet is less tedious and will leave behind a sparkling skillet.

The oven simply uses high temperatures to clean layers of oil and food stuck inside the oven. So it can be used to clean a cast-iron skillet as well.

If you have a self-cleaning oven, the process is quite simple.

  • First, you will need to move the oven racks to the bottom then place your skillet on the top shelf upside down.
  • Run the self-cleaning cycle for about 3 to 4 minutes depending on the settings of your oven.
  • Once done, you may choose to repeat the cycle once more to ensure all the black residue is cleaned off.
  • After the self-cleaning cycle, wait until your cast iron pan is cold. Remove it from the oven and scrub it to ensure that no chad is left and leave the skillet sparkling clean.

It is important to note that this method is risky because the self- cleaning oven gets extremely hot and it’s possible to crack your cast iron especially if it’s older. If you have to use the oven method, consider doing it less often.

Method 3: Clean With Vinegar And Water

Vinegar is also a readily available household product. It can be used to remove chad on a skillet as well as remove rust.

If you choose to use this method, you need to have white vinegar.

  • To clean the skillet, fill your sink halfway with water and add vinegar.
  • Submerge your pan and let it soak for about one hour.
  • Remove and scrub it thoroughly to remove the black chad.
  • If some of the residue fails to come off, soak it again for about an hour and then scrub.
  • Rinse using hot water and dry with a towel and then place it in the oven to dry completely.
How to clean black residue off cast iron skillet

Alternatively, you can simply put water and vinegar into the skillet and let it soak rather than submerging it in the sink. Then scrub and rinse in hot water.

Keep in mind that vinegar is acidic. So you should not let your cast iron pan soak in for too long as it may cause corrosion.

Method 4: Boil Water In The Skillet And Use A Spatula

Compared with the above methods, this is the simplest one. This will however work best if the black residue is due to burnt food rather than oil.

  • First, scrub the burnt food with a non-abrasive scrubber before using the spatula
  • Then fill the skillet with water and make sure that the stuck food is submerged.
  • Bring to a boil
  • After boiling, use a spatula to scrape the burnt food completely.
  • Repeat the process if there is still food stuck on the skillet.
  • Rinse with warm water and then wipe to dry and put it in the oven to dry it completely.

See also: Best griddle for glass stovetop

How To Prevent Black Residue On Cast Iron Skillet?

1. Avoid Overheating Fats And Oils When Cooking

As earlier mentioned, oils that have a low smoke point should not be overheated since they will burn and form a black layer on the pan.

The low smoke point means the temperature at which they start to smoke and burn.

Most unrefined oils like flaxseed, canola, olive, and wheat germ oil have a low smoke point. So, you should be careful not to overheat heat or use them only in dressings.

2. Always Wipe Down The Skillet With Oil Immediately After You Realize That The Food Is Burning

No one burns their food intentionally when cooking.

So in case you accidentally burn the food, put it in a different pan, and then clean off the burnt food.

Do not let it dry on the skillet as it may be hard to clean later.

How to clean black residue off cast iron skillet

The easiest way to clean is by wiping the skillet with oil and the food residue will come right off.

3. Apply Oil To The Skillet Every Time After Cleaning

The process of applying oil to the skillet after cleaning is known as seasoning.

Once you thoroughly clean your skillet and ensured it is completely dry, the final step is always to season it with oil such as vegetable oil or shortening.

Just pour a little oil inside the skillet and use a paper towel to spread it so that it forms a thin layer of oil.

Heat it in the oven for about 1 hour and then let it cool.

Seasoning restores the black coating that protects the skillet from rusting. It also helps to prevent food and oil from burning and forming black residue.

See also: How to get rid of white film on dishes in the dishwasher

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How to remove rust from cast iron?

To remove rust from the cast iron, you need to soak the rusty iron in vinegar and water solution. After that, use a bristle brush, and check if the rust comes off. If it does not, then let it soak for some more time.

But, it would help if you remembered that soaking it for more time does not always mean it is good. Once the vinegar and water act on rust, it will act on the iron itself if you do not take it out of the solution quickly.

Once you scrub it thoroughly, rinse the iron with clean water. Before you decide that it needs another round of vinegar water, let it dry completely. Then, you can repeat the steps until you feel the iron is sufficiently clean. 

2. How to care for a cast-iron skillet?

When cleaning a cast iron for the first time, you should wash it mildly with sap and water. Many people advise against using soap on cast iron, but these are just myths.

Using water and mild soaps never hurt a skillet and might even help it get that shine. This first-time wash of the skillet will ensure that any dirt or rusty parts are cleaned, even in the nooks of the skillet. But, this does not mean you will keep washing your cast iron skillet with soap.

Using excessive soap will damage your iron and leave scratches or a dull look. We advise you to only wash it with soap two times a year at most. To season your cast iron, you will need to apply many layers of fat on it – such as oil, to make it non-stick.

After the initial wash, you must store your cast iron well. Whenever you use it, it is best to clean the pan immediately after use.

3. What is the brown stuff on my cast iron skillet?

The brown stuff on your cast iron skillet is most likely residue. Because of the porosity of iron, a lot of dirt and leftover food particles leave deposits on the skillet.

It is likely just deposited. If the stuff on your skillet looks red-brown, it is also a chance of rust. Whatever the residue, it is essential to clean it as it will otherwise go deep into your food or even your cooking in oil.

To get rid of them, spray a mixture of salt and some rock salt on the pan and scrub it gently until the residue comes off. 

4. Is there any maintenance for a cast-iron skillet?

To keep your skillet clean, you should scrub it with salt and oil if there is food stuck on it.

You can also rinse it with warm water and a brush with soft bristles to remove any adamant pieces of food. Materials of the spatulas or vessels used with the skillet also matter.

It would help if you tried to use soft materials such as silicone or rubber. Whenever the food is cooked in the cast iron skillet, try to clean it instantly after use.


The above methods of how to clean black residue off cast iron skillet are very simple and doable.

They can save you the pain of buying another skillet, which is quite costly.

There are a few things you need to remember when cleaning a cast-iron skillet. Always wear gloves because the skillet holds heat for a long time, and it can burn you several minutes after removing it from the oven.

Also, never put a cold skillet in a hot oven even when seasoning because a sudden change in temperature can cause the skillet to crack.